Wrapped up in a heartfelt plea to the community, James Matson explores the evolution of retro gaming from hobby into cutthroat commerce
The inevitability of retro game collecting becoming big business was assured.
Those born and raised in the 80s became 30-something’s, giving them access to disposable income and a thirst for recreating memories of a childhood spent in front of the comforting glow of a bubble TV playing Space Invaders. So it came to pass that they began spending fistfuls of cash scooping up retro gaming gear creating increased interest in retro games and causing people who never even grew up with these systems to take an interest.
The momentum snowball continued to drive a retro game economy, spawning thousands of eBay and Gumtree listings and a generation of people who make it their business to haunt Facebook Buy and Sell groups and utilize complex geo-spatial mapping technology to plot the most effective route to cover as many op-shops as possible in one day. None of this is bad mind you, just inevitable. It’s how hobbies work. But when did retro game collecting get so serious? So cut-throat? So – dare we say it – nasty?
Was it always this way? Always filled with crazies and lobotomy patients? You know we can’t rightly remember. Like old age, the phenomenon of retro gaming becoming such a serious affair has crept up on us all. One day, you’re rummaging through your forgotten packing boxes to drag out the NES for a few games of Mario Bros, the next there are a hundred thousand Youtube channels all vying for your attention about their latest pickup and forums filled with the angst of people arguing about retro gaming in some form or another.
You only have to check out a Facebook Retro game buy & sell group to see the venom fly. People accused of ripping each other off, people accused of over-valuing items, or under-valuing them. People posting fake pick-ups from garage sales generating reams of comments in an orgy of flames and verbal violence. People getting into name calling arguments about the perceived rarity of a game, or console. Heated stuff too! The kind of verbal exchange that is moments away from escalating into Global Thermonuclear War. We’ve even seen people copping flack for collecting multiples of the same console or game. “They’re hoarders” is the general accusation, “they’re just stashing them to profit off later”. Let’s forget the fact that if you’re a Nintendo 64 fan there are more colour variations of console than there are skittles in the universe.
Then you get the cunning, snake-like types that actually do make an art out of ripping others off, conning them out of rare or expensive games or systems knowingly, only to turn around and sell them on for a profit. Where the hell did all these people come from? And what did they do to our hobby? Does anyone remember the underlying reason why we collect this stuff? Because it’s fun. We play the games because they’re fun. We talk about the different machines and their specifications and their history because it’s fun.
This is supposed to be fun. Enjoyable. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with making some coin too, but everyone needs to take an 8-bit chill pill and stop getting so bitterly twisted about the hobby economy we’ve created for ourselves. Zelda, Sonic, Commodore, Atari, these names are a golden part of our lives and shouldn’t be reduced to talking points in a bitter conflict about whether something is worth $20 or $25, or whether it should or shouldn’t be VGA graded. Let’s put down the pitchforks, and look out for each other.
Like any hobby, retro gaming lives and dies on the attitudes of the community, the people that drive the whole thing forward. You only need to stop by our Facebook page to see how successful, how positive and warm a retro gaming community can be. We encourage the sharing of stories and our opinion, favorite games or cherished memories and shy away from disputes about just how much you should charge for a game, or whether it’s somehow wrong to want to collect two boxed Atari 2600’s and not just one.
We’re about the gaming, the history and the passion. We know you are too. So keep it up, and keep away from the kill joys, the con artists and the naysayers. Reduce them to the exception, not the rule, and most importantly – keep on gaming.